Opinion: The war-torn FATA still in ruins | When will our fate change?
One of the basic principles of that Medina's state was compassion, which the KP government is so far missing with regards to tribal districts.
On 31 May 2018, FATA was officially merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It had happened with the consent of almost all major political parties. The purpose was to develop the war-torn area at a faster rate.
In February, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Pakistan, 14 public departments had not spent a single penny in ex-FATA. Whereas others only utilized 6.5% of funds from the annual development budget for the fiscal year 2019-20.
A total of Rupees 83 billion, including federal government’s 72 billion and KP government’s 11 billion, was allocated in the budget for the uplift of merged districts. However, only Rs. 5.4 billion worth of development work was completed until February.
This is partially due to the lack of public offices in the tribal districts, which is contrary to the earlier claim of the government, saying that it will quickly extend all its departments to merged districts.
PTM and the ‘Pashtun State’
With the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) around the corner, building rhetoric that the second-largest community of Pakistan i.e. “the Pashtuns” is being treated as third-class citizens is not a very difficult task.
Most of the demands of the PTM leader Manzoor Ahmed (also called Manzoor Pashtun by his followers out of hope and admiration for him) are fairly genuine grievances of the public, which he is manipulating.
But in addition, he has on an occasion, while addressing his supporters, glorified the idea of a Pashtun separate state, where all major positions including PM and Army Chief are held by Pashtuns.
In a situation when people already feel neglected by the state, PTM becomes a bigger danger than it really is. But their demands are simply dismissed, saying that the people are ‘being provoked’.
Who, as per them, are provoking the people of tribal districts against them? If they want to stop people from getting aggravated, it is in the national interest to ensure that their concerns are absolved by addressing all their genuine demands.
How can it be done? By spending the allocated money to develop the tribal districts.
In three to four years, basic facilities like health, education, policing, and infrastructure can easily improve. An effective local body system is also important to solve every Union Council’s (UC) issues in that particular domain.
The people in positions of power often fall in a delusion, thinking that they can arrest people to hide their incompetence. However, our history tells us that no person in power has been able to permanently suppress any voice with even a shred of truth. Jails make those voices even stronger.
Arresting Manzoor Pashtun and other PTM leaders is only making things worse. It is having political repercussions – it is making the people of tribal districts support PTM more.
I, speaking on behalf of the suffering tribal districts of Pakistan, understand that due to the pandemic, the developmental work has come to a halt. I recognize that it will take time to extend government departments to previously almost uncharted territory.
But no progress in the seven months before the COVID-19 crisis is increasing the grievances of the people more and the trust is decreasing once again.
Not taking any practical step, unfortunately, reflects either the incompetence or lack of interest of the PTI’s KP government. This is, more importantly, helping the PTM rhetoric.
PM Imran Khan talks about building a welfare state on Medina’s model. One of the basic principles of that state was compassion, which the KP government is so far missing with regards to tribal districts.
Chief Minister’s Advisor for Tribal Districts, Ajmal Wazir, in February, said that “We will carry out development work in tribal districts at a high pace in future”.
The people of FATA have suffered long enough. The rest of Pakistan at least owes this to them that their districts are developed on a priority basis. We cannot go back in time to stop the miseries that happened. The least we can do is give them a good future, so all their previous miseries seem like a bad dream.
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